TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer quits just three months after taking the job

A former Disney exec who helped launch Disney+, Kevin Mayer took over TikTok in May.

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Kevin Mayer, Disney's head of direct-to-consumer division, on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Kevin Mayer, then Disney's head of direct-to-consumer division, on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid Brendan McDermid / reuters

When Kevin Mayer left Disney’s direct to consumer operations and took over as CEO of TikTok in May, he probably didn’t foresee the company becoming such a popular target of politicians — specifically the president. Now, just three months later, and in the middle of a government-forced sale-or-shut down process, the Financial Times reported Mayer told TikTok employees in a letter that he’s stepping down. In the interim, current TikTok general manager Vanessa Pappas will lead the company.

In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said to Engadget, “We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin's role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision. We thank him for his time at the company and wish him well.”

In the letter, Mayer said “In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for. Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”

His departure comes suddenly, while the company is still negotiating that deal, and just a month after he promised a push for transparency while hoping to turn perception of the app around. He called TikTok’s future “bright” and said “I want to be clear that this decision has nothing to do with the company, what I see for our future, or the belief I have in what we are building. Yiming understands my decision and I thank him for his support on this.”

Kevin Mayer:

I decided to join this company this spring because ByteDance is utterly unique and it offered the opportunity to play a leadership role in a company that is changing the global internet landscape. Since joining, I have been incredibly impressed with the team and the company.

In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for. Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.

I want to be clear that this decision has nothing to do with the company, what I see for our future, or the belief I have in what we are building. Yiming understands my decision and I thank him for his support on this.
As we look to the next phase of this company, there is no doubt that the future is incredibly bright. For our users, any potential structural changes should not affect their experience, and I strongly believe that our community will be more creative and diverse than ever. The platform will continue to provide our global community an amazing and integrated experience as it does today. Similarly, from an employee perspective, I believe that the vast majority of work will be unchanged.

At the same time, I understand that the role that I signed up for--including running TikTok globally--will look very different as a result of the US Administration's action to push for a sell off of the US business. I've always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok US was a big draw for me.

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